Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO SAMUEL OGDEN. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. X (1782-1785)
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TO SAMUEL OGDEN. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. X (1782-1785) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. X (1782-1785).
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TO SAMUEL OGDEN.
Painful as the task is to describe the dark side of our affairs, it sometimes becomes a matter of indispensable necessity. Without disguise or palliation, I will inform you candidly of the discontents, which at this moment prevail universally throughout the army.
Newburg, 19 January, 1783.
The complaint of evils, which they suppose almost remediless, are the total want of money or the means of existing from one day to another, the heavy debts they have already incurred, the loss of credit, the distress of their families (i. e. such as are married) at home, and the prospect of poverty and misery before them. It is vain, Sir, to suppose, that military men will acquiesce contentedly with bare rations, when those in the civil walk of life, (unacquainted with half the hardships they endure,) are regularly paid the emoluments of office. While the human mind is influencd. by the same passions, and have ye same inclinations to indulge, it cannt. be. A military man has the same turn to sociability as a person in civil life. He conceives himself equally called upon to live up to his rank, and his pride is hurt when circumstans. restrain him. Only conceive, then, the mortification they (even the general officers) must suffer, when they cannot invite a French officer, a visiting friend, or a travelling acquaintance, to a better repast, than stinking whiskey (and not always that) and a bit of Beef without vegetables will afford them.
In every conversation which I have had with you, on the subject of your letters of the 31st of last month, and 15th inst., I was pointed, because I meant to deal candidly, in assuring you, it was not my intention to interest myself in behalf of any particular characters, that my motives were altogether public, and that if I could not take the business up upon the broadest basis, and while a defection on the part of the refugees would be productive of advantages to the American cause, I would have no concern with it.
The officers also complain of other hardships, which they think might and ought to be remedied without delay; such as the stopping promotions, where there have been vacancies open for a long time; the withholding commissions from those, who are justly entitled to them, and have warrants or certificates of their appointments from the executive of their States; and particularly the leaving the compensation for their services in a loose, equivocal state, without ascertaining their claims upon the public, or making provision for the future payment of them.
I am sorry to observe to you, that there appears to me to be a delay on the part of the refugees or loyalists, which is to be ascribed more to design than to necessity. It seems as if the object with them was to get at the ultimatum of Great Britain, before any decided steps should be taken with the country they have abandoned. This, sir, you will do me the justice to acknowledge, is not only incompatible with my ideas, but to my express declaration to you:—for the foundation on which I meant to build, and the only one upon which I could attempt to include and recommend obnoxious characters, was their decision and influence; and the consequent advantages, while the intention of the enemy should be suspended and unknown.
While I premise, that tho’ no one I have seen or heard of appears opposed to the principle of reducing the army as circumstances may require, yet I cannot help fearing the result of the measure in contemplation, under present circumstances, when I see such a number of men, goaded by a thousand stings of reflection on the past and of anticipation on the future, about to be turned into the world, soured by penury and what they call the ingratitude of the public, involved in debts without one farthing of money to carry them home, after having spent the flower of their days, and many of them their patrimonies, in establishing the freedom and independence of their country, and sufered everything human nature is capable of enduring on this side of death. I repeat it, in these irritable circumstances, without one thing to soothe their feelings or brighten the gloomy prospects, I cannot avoid apprehending that a train of evils will follow, of a very serious and distressing nature. On the other hand, could the officers be placed in as good a situation, as when they came into service, the contention, I am persuaded, would be, not who should continue in the field, but who should retire to private life.
The matter has already been near three months in agitation, and for aught that has come to my knowledge, is yet in statu quo. One month, perhaps, a few days now, will unfold the designs of the British cabinet, or rather those of the Parliament. Let me ask then, if these be to prosecute the war vigorously, will the gentlemen of that class, in whose behalf you particularly interest yourself (after their address to the king of Great Britain, which I have lately seen) give any aid to this country? If the determination is in favor of peace, and peace takes place on the terms which are expected, will not their inveterate obstinacy and procrastination, put it out of the power of any man, to adduce an argument in their favor?
I wish not to heighten the shades of the picture so far as the real life would justify me in doing, or I would give anecdotes of patriotism and distress, which have scarcely ever been paralleled, never surpassed in the history of mankind. But, you may rely upon it, the patience and long-sufferance of this army are almost exhausted, and that there never was so great a spirit of discontent as at this instant. While in the field, I think it may be kept from breaking out into acts of outrage; but when we retire into winter-quarters, (unless the storm is previously dissipated,) I cannot be at ease respecting the consequences. It is high time for a peace.
I confess to you, Sir, their policy strikes me in so unfavorable a point of view, that I no longer find an inclination to have any further agency in the business; for I am convinced from their address, and other circumstances, that they will never turn their faces towards this country until the back of Great Britain is turn’d upon them. And that their delay proceeds from no other cause than an intention to await the event of their application in another quarter.
To you, my dear Sir, I need not be more particular in describing my anxiety and the grounds of it. You are too well acquainted, from your own service, with the real sufferings of the army, to require a longer detail. I will, therefore, only add, that, exclusive of the common hardships of a military life, our troops have been and still are obliged to perform more services foreign to their proper duty, without gratuity or reward, than the soldiers of any other army; for example, the immense labors expended in doing the duties of artificers in erecting fortifications and military works, the fatigue of building themselves barracks or huts annually, and of cutting and transporting wood for the use of all our posts and garrisons without any expense whatever to the public.
I have only to add that I am the more confirmed in this opinion, upon observing that there is no idea held up in the copy of your brother’s letter of the 3d of December (the original of which never came to my hands,) or in any of the subsequent ones, which gives the smallest insight into the business; or that will support me in any deduction favorable to it; the former of which is expressly contrary to the information I received from you at our last interview, as the letter from your brother to you (which was to pass through my hands) was to be couched in such terms, as I should understand, tho’ unintelligible to others, who should be unacquainted with the business. Your own letter of the 31st, committed to the care of Mr. Morris, was brought here a few days ago only, by a common soldier, who delivered it at the office and retired before I had read, and could enquire how he came by it, nor do I know at this hour. Upon the maturest consideration, Sir, I have so fully made up my judgment on this subject, that I could wish never to hear any thing farther upon it. I am, sir, &c.
Of this letter, (which, from the tenor of it, must be considered in some degree of a private nature,) you may make such use as you shall think proper, since the principal objects of it were, by displaying the merits, the hardships, the disposition, and critical state of the army, to give information that might eventually be useful, and to convince you with what entire confidence and esteem, I am, my dear Sir, &c.1